CEHAT conducted a five-day course on feminist counselling from 22nd June to 26th June 2015 at Sarvodaya Department, Saint Pius College, Goregaon. There were 12 participants from non-governmental organizations of Maharashtra and Goa. Maharashtra participants were from different places like Chandrapur, Bhandara, Sangli, Yavatmal, Beed, Jalgaon, and Mumbai. The participants were counselors and social workers with minimum 2 years experience on the issue of violence against women. The objective of the course was to provide participants with a different lens with which to approach their work - a feminist lens which empowers women to question oppression and respond to it.
The methodology was experiential and interactive, informing participants of theoretical concepts with scope for hands-on learning through discussions of case studies and role plays. This provided opportunity for discussion and debate. The participants were enthusiastic and shared various examples of cases they had intervened in and the challenges they encountered.
Hasina Khan, an activist in the Women’s Movement in India, took the participants through the history and ongoing journey of the women’s movement in the country over the past decades. This session helped participants establish a context for feminist counselling. The session on legal counselling in relation to VAW was facilitated by Adv. Ujwala Kadrekar, associated with Lawyers collective with several years of experience in the area of women’s rights. The session offered participants greater understanding of the law, its interpretation and application to their work.
The various forms of violence against women and their consequences, the role of healthcare providers in responding to violence against women, the values, principles, ethics and techniques of feminist counselling and the feminist critique of the mainstream model of psychiatry were discussed in detail, with a demonstration of the method through a role play. The participants applied these techniques through group work on case studies and took back a lot of learning which they were keen to apply to their work.
Participants gave feedback that the exercise of role plays of case study and application of counseling skills and techniques encouraged them to critically analyze their own counseling styles. These exercises help them more to understand, analyze and apply the concepts to their work, encouraging them to think about what they would do differently when they go back.
Participants realized the importance of trusting the woman when she approaches them as against questioning her story. They had learnt a different perspective with which to view problems and challenges, keeping in mind the position of women on the axis of power and be able to reach out to women in a more sensitive and empowering manner.
CEHAT and TISS are pleased to announce its 2nd National Course on Responding to Violence Against Women: Feminist Counselling in the very same year due to the overwhelming number of applications we received in the first course. The course is aimed at building a critical feminist perspective on the issue of violence against women and enhancing skills of the participants in responding to survivors of violence.
Feminist counselling as a method of responding to violence against women has been considered the most effective method as it equips women to question oppression and builds their capacity to deal with their distress. It goes beyond the individual and helps women connect to the outside world and negotiate their space within it. It was the women’s movement in India that brought forth not just the issue of Violence against women in India but also the feminist perspective in responding to this issue.
CEHAT has addressed the issue of Violence and health for more than a decade. One of its endeavors has been the joint initiative of CEHAT and MCGM, namely Dilaasa a hospital based department to respond to women reporting Domestic violence. Dilaasa provides women with psycho social support, temporary shelter facilities, and free legal as well as medical aid. While setting a feminist counselling model at Dilaasa, we drew heavily from the values and principles used by the women’s movement, but realised that there was a dearth of Indian literature pertaining to feminist counselling skills adopted to respond to individual women. It took us an entire year to design a feminist counselling model. It has been 10 years since then.
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences was established in 1936, as the Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work. Since then, it has strived to continually respond to changing social realities through the development and application of knowledge, towards creating a people-centered ecologically sustainable and just society that promotes and protects dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all. TISS has been engaging with the issue of violence against women for over 25 years now. Several of the current courses address women’s issues and issues of counselling women from a feminist perspective. The faculty in the School of Social work engages with the field realities concerning women through the ‘field action projects’.
We realize that there are several professionals responding to women facing violence but are not aware of “Feminist counselling” as a methodology / discipline of counselling. The PWDVA (Protection of women from Domestic violence Act 2005) too has paved way for several counsellors / Protection officers under this law to provide counselling to survivors of Domestic violence. Thus, seeing the vision and aim of academic rigor and field engagement with the issue of violence against women by CEHAT and TISS, it was decided to jointly launch the course on feminist counselling.
Evaluations from previous participants of the Feminist Counseling course have been overwhelmingly positive. They have cited the effective methodology, strong reading materials, and diversity of cohort as contributors to the richness of the learning experience. Participants commended the commitment knowledge and skills of all resource personnel. Most found the course gave them new tools with which to approach their field and help their clients. The following are from evaluations of the most recent training:
|It opened up a whole new perspective to mental illness in women and methods of dealing with Violence Against Women. It has helped me understand VAW, women’s perspective to it and the feminist perspective and the centrality of the fact that violence in any form or level is oppressive and needs to be opposed.|
|It has extended my knowledge of feminist philosophy and therapy. I have been enriched by the input on the law, masculinities and narrative therapy skills. I intend to keep reading and engaging with people on the field and use my learning in my own future therapy and research. When appropriate, I would introduce it more formally with my clients and participants, and would share this new input with my colleagues in the university.|